Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Pop and Rock

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Animal (RCA)

Nashville-raised singer/songwriter Kesha Rose Sebert made digital-sales history in 2009 when her infectious debut single TiK ToK got downloaded 610,000 times, the highest digital total for a female artist in one week since SoundScan started tracking figures. That's a force of nature.

Check into her past and you find that Ke$ha has sung backgrounds and co-written songs for fellow pop folk. How Lady Gaga-like.

Though Ke$ha doesn't have the drama or soulful vocal chops of Gaga, this catty rapper's first album sounds enough like the scorched electro-hop of TiK ToK to please fans of the drunked-up party anthem. Animal has an undeniable sonic mix of sheen and grit. Take It Off comes across like Britney's Circus with its dark electro-hooks and repetitive vocal chants. Blah Blah Blah is hard pop-hop cut with pogo-worthy beats.

Ke$ha doesn't reinvent the wheel. Then again, judging from those downloads, you probably wouldn't want her to, either. 'Ö'Ö'Ö

-- A.D. Amorosi, Philadelphia Inquirer

Dan Frechette

Performer (Independent)

Since moving from Pinawa to the so-called big city here in Winnipeg, widely travelled troubadour Dan Frechette has gone from strength to musical strength. His fourth solo album is a stripped-down live effort that brims with the kind of self-effacingly dazzling songs fans have come to love.

He's the kind of songwriter that can practically charm the birds out of the trees with his sincerity and earnest language and has obviously looked at life from more than one angle, as songs like Lost River Blues and The Saddest Smile is Goodbye prove.

Frechette has an intelligent, light-hearted side too and while there are smiles in some of the songs they obviously really only camouflage some deeper, earnest world view. This is a balanced, interesting live document that bears up under repeated listenings. 'Ö'Ö'Ö'Ö

-- Jeff Monk

The Dingleberries

Ashore (Independent)

When you name your band after the feces that gets stuck on the hair of an animal's buttocks you'd better be good.

Winnipeg's the Dingleberries avoid being made the butt of jokes with a collection of 12 smartly-crafted pop-tunes that touch on hard rock (Find That Highway), roots (Dead Horse Creek, Stay With Me, Halfway Tree), bar rock (the title track) and jangle-pop in the vein of Barenaked Ladies (Believe in Me recalls Brian Wilson).

It's a diverse mix of sounds that shows off a wide range of songwriting styles and influences from the veteran quintet, but nothing sounds out of place. Ashore is definitely not crap. 'Ö'Ö'Ö

-- RW

Vampire Weekend

Contra (XL)

Enough already with the whining about whether the Columbia University grads in Vampire Weekend have committed crimes of inauthenticity by dallying in Afro-pop from a privileged Upper West Side perch. Instead, kudos to Ezra Koenig and his Ralph Lauren-sporting crew for expanding on their 2008 self-titled debut's most agreeable mix of New Wave perkiness and King Sunny Ade juju without sacrificing an iota of instantly accessible catchiness.

On Contra's 10 clean, concise songs, Koenig sticks to his playfully worldly lyrical guns while adding depth to his songwriting. In Horchata, he rhymes the titular Mexican agua fresca drink with "Aranciata" and "balaclava," and he gets his modern-art jollies in a "Richard Serra skatepark" on White Sky. But there's also the wistful heartbreak of Taxi Cab and contemplative tranquillity of the closing I Think UR A Contra.

Sorry, naysayers, there's no sophomore slump in store. 'Ö'Ö'Ö'Ö

-- Dan DeLuca, Philadelphia Inquirer

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 16, 2010 C4

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